A Rove-ing down memory lane

Kona Rove

The Kona Rove is a cyclo-cross-slash-whatever bike, with eyelets for racks and fenders and plenty of clearance for tires forbidden by the UCI.

The departure of the flu coincided with a return of springlike weather, so I’ve been spending some time outdoors of late, searching for my lost legs.

It’s been three weeks since the bug laid me low, and my pipes are still not quite up to snuff — I’m gonna have to refill that albuterol prescription one of these days — but nonetheless it’s been pleasant to be out and about, far from the iMac and its penchant for delivering evil tidings.

The bike of choice lately has been the Kona Rove, which as mentioned in an earlier post is on deck in the Adventure Cyclist hit parade. As usual, I can’t say much about it until the paying customers get theirs, but I will note that it’s not a touring bike — the Sutra fills that particular niche for Kona.

I had to put a little Irish on the front fender's left strut (it's much better than English) to work around the Hayes disc brake.

I had to put a little Irish on the front fender’s left strut (it’s much better than English) to work around the Hayes disc brake.

Nope, the Rove is one of those whatever bikes, which is to say that whatever you feel like riding it will handle without complaint.

It’s been interesting to watch the industry come up with a fresh take on the kind of machinery I rode when we lived up Weirdcliffe way. I tried to get Brent Steelman to build me a drop-bar mountain bike to tackle the wealth of gravel roads, two-track and single-track we had up there, but as I recall he had doubts about welding up such a weirdo.

So instead I made do with one of his old CC cyclo-cross bikes. Brent billed the CC as “a 700c mountain bike” — in fact, it may have been one of the earliest 29ers — and in its final configuration before I sold it to a friend its Excell frameset wore 700×40 Ritchey rubber, a triple (46/36/24), a seven-speed 105 drivetrain (12-28) and bar-end shifters.

The Rove comes stock with a set of 700×35 Freedom by WTB Ryders, but it likewise can handle 700×40 tires, and with fenders, too. Go without fenders and you can run tractor tires, if that’s your idea of a good time.

The Rove is considerably burlier than my old CC, in part because it uses Hayes CX5 disc brakes for stoppers instead of a pair of Dia-Compe 986 cantis.

Of course, its rider is considerably burlier than was the old ’crosser who used to race that CC, so I’ll hold my fire in that regard, stone-wise.

And besides, that which does not kill you makes you stronger, right? The flu didn’t get me, and I doubt the Rove will, unless I try to pick it up and run with it. That would be just begging for it.

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31 Responses to “A Rove-ing down memory lane”

  1. Jim in Coalville Says:

    Happy to hear that you are feeling better & getting out!

    I just ordered up a Sutra for some Spring touring. Hopefully our frigging temperature inversion will leave the Western Slope by April…

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Hayes stoppers (the Sutra comes set up with them also). It looks like Kona has done away with canti studs, so I’m stuck with disks. I was thinking that I might want to swap out the Hayes for BB-7s if the Hayes are under-performers. Thanks!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Jim, me too. If I’m going to be a layabout I want it to be on my terms — say, in a hammock on a beach somewhere, surrounded by empty beverage containers, rather than under a sweat-soaked pile of blankies in Bibleburg, surrounded by used tissues.

      I’m still not sold on discs, but since there’s no escaping the industry’s latest fever dream I’m striving mightily to go with the flow. So far the Hayes stoppers are working fine, though I’m not asking much of them in my enfeebled state.

      I’m curious why Kona chose Hayes over Avid for these bikes, since the Rove is wearing SRAM throughout. And they spec’ Avids elsewhere in the line. Shimano, too. I’ll have to inquire.

      Meanwhile, I like the look of the Sutra, and you can’t beat that price point — bike, racks and fenders for $1,499? Bring a pair of pedals to the shop and you can ride the bugger home. You’ll have to fill us in once you get some miles on it.

  2. Steve O Says:

    That which does not kill you makes you stronger.

    But the stuff that kills you really sucks.

  3. Khal Spencer Says:

    The Salsa LaCruz is marketed as a cross bike, but in the configuration mine has, its a whatever bike used for commuting that somewhat resembles an F-4 Phantom with drop tanks, bombs, missiles, and a trailer on the back carrying a beer cooler. It still rides well though.That is the beauty of such bikes. They can damn near do anything without losing their composure.

    • Patrick O'Brien Says:

      I had a Trek Portland a few years ago. It was a great all around bike. But when I tried an overnight trip to Bisbee with it, my heels hit the small panniers and that last hill had me wishing for lower gears. I traded it for a Trek 520. Of course now I wish I would have kept it.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I like an all-arounder as a daily driver because the best riding close to home involves a multitude of surfaces, but there are times when you definitely need the real deal.

      When I did my little three-day ride back in November I really appreciated having chainstays long enough to keep my heels from clipping the bags and a triple-chainring setup for emergencies.

      I never used the granny ring, but it was a comfort knowing it was there.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      K, product managers know they’re going to sell precious few actual touring bikes, so they split the difference and market all-arounders as “cyclo-cross,” “urban” or “commuter,” and spec’ ’em accordingly. Compact gearing, capacity for fenders, racks and big tires, and lately (sigh) disc brakes.

      It makes sense. Commuting is a bigger niche, and outside of that most folks ride for fun. Their idea of “fun” does not include riding 50-plus miles a day, living on granola and sleeping under a roadside tree in a greasy fartsack.

      • Khal Spencer Says:

        I hope the new stuff does a better job of mounting the disk tabs so they don’t interfere with racks and fenders. My LaCruz has fenders and I can probably figure out how to add a front rack, but the thing does make me swear whenever I take the fenders off or on again.

        I put a 12-36 9 speed cassette on the tandem and could probably put it on a Whatever bike. The tandem has a “shadow” Shimano derailleur on it to handle the 36t frisbee gear, but folks on the tandem@hobbes list say you can use a normal GT derailleur if you fiddle with the set screws. That would give a compact setup a 34-36 low gear.

        If I really tour, I’ll use the Long Haul Trucker, which has a genuine granny ring.

      • Patrick O'Brien Says:

        The new 520’s are now using the Shimano trekking cranks (26, 26, 48) with a 12-36 cassette. I really like it. My old 520 had a 105 triple crank (30,42,52) and it didn’t seem low enough for some big hills and my weak knees. I really like a higher cadence when climbing, so I need lower gears than some folks.

      • Patrick O'Brien Says:

        Correction – On my 520 the front chainrings are 26, 36, & 48, and the rear cassette is 11-32.

  4. Larry T. Says:

    These things remind me of my old Bridgestone MB-1, a bike I converted to drop bar just as B-stone released their next model already set up that way! I still remember talking to Grant Petersen at the old BDS show at Long Beach (I think it was, or perhaps Anaheim?) and saying in effect, “Thanks, if only I’d known, you guys could have saved me the work!” but it was a great fire-road flyer since that was off-roading in SoCal for the most part. When we moved to New England, the rocks, roots and singletrack had me swapping back to the MTB straight bar setup pronto! Other than the awful chainstay mounted rear brake (remember that fad….I wonder if disky brakes will go the same way?) it was a great bike. Glad to hear you’re well enough to ride again Patrick! We’re having what passes for winter here in Sicily, rain showers and wind so we’ve not been out for “real” riding except for one quick one a few days ago. Meanwhile I’ve been setting up a used Bianchi I scored the other day for shopping duties. I’ve been all over the island and into Siracusa on this thing. It’ll be a challenge keeping it from turning to rust here on the seafront, but I’m hoping liberal doses of marine protectant spray will stave off total destruction in the 3+ months we’ll be living here – if there’s enough left to use next time we’re down here I’ll be satisfied, otherwise I’m out 100 euros ($135) or about 1 tank of diesel in our support van!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The old MB-1 was a great bike, wasn’t it? I still see one now and then. A real survivor, that one.

      I heard you folks were getting some weather. Looks like unpleasant conditions in Cincinnati, too, just in time for the Kings International, the last big-deal domestic cyclo-cross before worlds in Kaintucky.

      World champ Niels Albert is among the big shots scheduled to turn up … hope he brought his wool bibs.

    • Khal Spencer Says:

      Those Bridgestones were nice bikes for their times but man, would be heavy now, at least the MB2. I had recently moved to Oahu (1987) and didn’t want to gulp down the greenbacks for the MB-1 (my school loans had just hit, along with high Honolulu rents) and bought an MB-2 from McCully Bike, which had good prices and was close to campus. It served me well for a number of years as a trail scoot and commuter bike. When I injured both knees pretending to be able to road race, that MB came in handy with its low gears because my doctor told me not to ride for a year. That was not about to happen, but the MB let me gear down and spin until the knees mostly healed, so it was outfitted with road slicks, fenders, rack, and bar ends for the 11 mile commute home into the trade winds and rains. Here’s a pic I found.


      My brother in law bought an MB-5 to poke around the trails with as he lived over on the rural side of the island. It had that awful under-chainstay rear brake. The MB-2’s problem was that it was set up with a Sun Tour drivetrain, which rapidly became obsolete as Suntour met its sunset. I eventually donated that bike to a local self help organization and got a Trek mountain bike with more modern Shimano stuff hanging on it, which at least could be more easily upgraded.

      • Larry T. Says:

        Back-in-those-daze SunTour was just fine – higher quality than that other stuff. I ran non-index barcons with the drop bars and upside down retrofriction thumbshifters on the flat bars right to the bitter end. The only thing I hated was that awful chainstay mounted rear brake, which they ditched with the next year’s model as well. Weight? I don’t care much, having pedaled one of our rental bikes over some pretty major climbs a few years ago (the same one I brought down here to Sicily) and really couldn’t tell any difference while riding compared to my much lighter personal Torelli. Hoisting it up onto the roof rack is a different thing of course – THAT’S when I really like those lightweight plastic bikes..as long as I don’t have to ride one that is!

      • Khal Spencer Says:

        There seems to be a ton of difference hoisting the old Trek tandem onto the roof rack compared to the Co-Motion.

      • Larry T. Says:

        BUT…do you notice this while RIDING the things? I don’t, even when climbing something as brutal as the Passo Gavia.

      • Khal Spencer Says:

        I doubt I can tell a couple pounds on a bike to save my life. The difference we note between the old Trek T-50 tandem frame and the Co-motion Primera is the quality of the frame and better handling. The Trek had a heavier wall frame and had the feel of an almost dead ride. The Co-mo is a much smoother and lively ride from the thinner, higher end tubes. When I took it out of its crate and put it together, we could immediately detect a big difference. Plus, the stoker top tube is about two inches longer, so Meena doesn’t feel like she is squished in a box.

      • Larry T. Says:

        I’ll happily concede on the quality tubes vs lesser ones. Our rental Torelli’s have a thicker walled tubing that does not offer the lively, springy ride of say, Columbus Nemo 747 or Ultrafoco. Same with my old TOMI, made from SLX…rides just fine but you can feel a difference when jumping on a frame made with a more modern, thinner wall, larger diameter tubeset. But when plastic frames can be slapped together and baked up by folks earning low wages, who wants to pay for high-quality steel and the workmanship required to turn it into a nice frame? That’s what killed off the Torelli Gran Sasso…it just couldn’t compete with those plastic “brackets” that hold the Shimano groupsets together in the mind of the consumer. The market became a “X groupset bike for $X” and the frame/fork (the heart of the bike after all) didn’t seem to matter anymore.

      • Khal Spencer Says:

        I soured on carbon when an acquaintance leaned a bike against a gutter one day after a ride. The bike for some reason, slid down the gutter and dinged against a metal bracket attached to the side of the building. That ripped an inch hole in the top tube of the bike, an Orbea. My acquaintance and her husband looked at the now dead bike in horror, especially as a major race was days away.

        I decided that such a minor error in bike placement should not result in needing a new bike. Especially given my tendency to be a klutz.

      • Patrick O'Brien Says:

        I like TI. Just can’t afford it now I’m retired. Thinking a decent steel does the trick now. Thinking about buying a Surly LHT frame and switching all the 520 parts over, upgrading the crank to a SLX trekking, and Bob’s your uncle!

      • Khal Spencer Says:

        For the pricetag, the LHT isn’t a bad bike, although I have no idea how well the factory components work as I bought the frame and built mine up from the parts bin. It has your basic 4130 frame and fork and the tubes are noticibly oversize so it rides well with just enough resilience to feel good and the handling is quick and predictable. I have no problem riding it up to the ski hill on occasion and bombing all the way down as though it was one of my road bikes–only caveat being some of the 26″ tires suck. I have not toured on mine but have been using it for a daily commuter, so I can’t say how it will ride under a full load. It steers a lot slower if I put on my Blackburn Low Rider front pannier mount.

        My last true touring bike was a Univega Speciallisima, which had a nice soft ride albeit the bike had a lot of flex in it because in those days, I tended to ride it as though it was a road racer. For loaded touring, I think the LHT would be a better bike due to its designed stiffness.

        Plus, when Surley says you can put fat tires on it, they ain’t kidding. I have a set of 26″ x 2.1 knobbies mounted on one set of wheels for lousy winter days. Normally I run 1.4″ wide rubber for those days I am riding to work with the kitchen sink.

  5. Khal Spencer Says:

    Ok, here is one for everybody: Liestrong.

  6. Larry T. Says:

    These disky brakes make me think about the comments all over the web about how a recent ‘cross turned out to be a nightmare for those using this “superior” braking system. Yes, the same one that is touted as performing well in conditions that make rim brakes almost useless – water and mud. These things turned out to be WORSE than the antiquated technology they were supposed to so-soon replace. Sounds like more of the “answer to the question nobody asked” routine, just like electronic shifting?.

  7. Dan Says:

    I stumbled on page based on your Kona Rove writtings. I want to find out if would be a good set up for riding from around the shitty roads down by PPIR to Fountain then through more shitty (but new) roads on Ft Carson and finish up with a four mile hill climb to work. The route will be about 29 miles and have been considering Cross/touring frames as an option.

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